Thursday, 18 March 2010

God Like Genius - David Sylvian

A genius that splits opinion. David Sylvian is either a pretentious bowie/ferry rip off poser with a drone of a voice or someone with an ear for melody a voice of emotion and who makes atmospheric music and actively looks to experiment with his song structures and sounds.

Among my friend I am in a minority of one in agreeing with option 2. Over the next 2 days I'm going to post 7 tracks that try to prove my point!

The first is the obvious one from Japan. This was a top 5 single at a time when you actually had to sell a few copies to get a top 5 hit. Along with Laurie Anderson's O Superman it must one of stranger songs to climb so high. If it was released in these days of Simon Cowell singles I can't imaging it getting on the radio let alone in the charts. A brave single and still a great track. This version has a re recorded vocal for the double compilation lp "Everything and Nothing"

Ghosts - Japan

1984 saw the release of David Sylvian's first solo lp "Brilliant Trees". The song had a minor hit in the almost poppy "Red Guitar" but when the press and radio realised that they weren't going to get another "Art of Parties" but instead a lot of mood music they soon lost interest. This lp saw the start of a trend where he would surround himself with the best musicians he could find who operated on the margins of commercial music.

Nostalgia - David Sylvian

The next lp "Gone to Earth" must have had Virgin Music throwing their hands up in despair. David Sylvian was fairly sprinting away from the mainstream at this point. Record companies don't like double lps at the best of time let alone one where 2 sides are instrumentals. Despite all this the lp contains one of the best melodies he has written

Silver Moon - David Sylvian

To really push Virgin's patience he then releases a single called "Pop Song" which of course it wasn't

Pop Song - David Sylvian

I don't think what I've posted will convert anyone but hopefully it will remind a few people as to how good he can be and get them to explore some of his lps which you can get here

I've tended to look at his more mainstream releases and I'm not posting anything from his instrumental lps/eps or the work he did with Robert Fripp (some great songs are on their "First Day"lp) or with Holger Czukay.

You can find a full discography here on his website. I was going to say it was one of the best website designs for a singer/band I'd come across. However it has recently had a redesign and now features a drawing of David Sylvian that looks like it has come from one of those shops that sell scented candles, silk clothes and tarot cards. This is a bit odd as everything he releases normally comes with a gorgeous cover


  1. for me 'God Like' ,I used to love his interviews with the NME where he would mention books he was reading or different artists whose work he was enjoying .

    I was pretty much blown away by brilliant trees , and I love to listen to his music still after all this time .

  2. still remember him being interviewed on the Kid Jensen show at the time of Brilliant Trees' launch. Loved it and Jensen said it ws the best thing he'd done. Think I was the first kid in East Kilbride to buy it..according to the guy who sold me at Impulse Records!

  3. Cheers Jay and Stevie for the comments. I think part of why i like him so much is that his stuff seems pretty timeless (certainly the post japan output which i think hasnt dated much at all). First in East Kilbride - that is worth putting on your gravestone!

  4. Sylvian has been a soundtrack to my life for over 30 years...Even early glam rock Japan has it's place for me. But Brilliant Trees and Gone to Earth are so VERY special to me. Here are my 5 faves of Sylvian's solo career - 1. Before The Bullfight 2. Forbidden Colours 3. Thalheim 4. Nostalgia 5. Ride.

  5. thanks of rthe post - really interesting choices for 3 and 5 I'd have to go for in no order - i surrender , Orpheus , September , Forbidden colours and then either ink in the well or backwaters or nostalgia ... oh and not forgetting laughter and forgetting .. i give up it is too dam hard


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